4 Reasons To Say “No” And How To Say It

4 reasons to say “no” and how to say it

How to say no in the workplace

When you are in your first few years of your career, you are the master of multitasking, offering support to whoever and whatever needs it the most. In an effort to prove yourself, it makes sense that you will try to take on as much as possible, learn as much as possible, and have a lot of different tasks and people competing for your time.

The downside of all of this? At times, it becomes way too much to handle. I don’t mean this metaphorically. You actually won’t be able to do it all with the number of hours in the day. Believe it or not, learning how to effectively say “no’ is just as important as saying ”yes, bring it on!’

Remember, there are likely some really valid reasons behind your “no,” and in case you forgot, here are four of them:

Reason 1

You have way too much on your plate. 
Often times, the person asking you to work on something isn’t aware of the other things you are working on. It’s your job to organize and prioritize your tasks — no one else’s. Show transparency to what you’re working on. There is nothing wrong with saying ”I’d love to help out with that but given the other things I’m working on, I may not be able to get to it until X date.’

Or perhaps this new task seems to be a higher priority than one of your other tasks. In that case, you might want to say, ”I’d love to take this on, but it might mean I don’t get to Y until next week. Is that okay?’ If there really isn’t enough time in the day, help people understand the trade-offs.

Reason 2

You think there is a better way to do it than the way you’re being asked. 
Just because you are the ”junior’ person in the conversation doesn’t mean you don’t know best! Don’t be afraid to find alternate ways to solve a problem that are more efficient for you (and in turn, the company). It’s okay to not have that alternate solution in the moment and say, ”I’d like to work on this, but I have a few new ideas about how to make the process even better. Do you mind if I put something together and schedule time with you to review it?’

Reason 3

You’ve never done it before and aren’t sure how.
 This is actually one of the reasons where I don’t think you should say no (even if you are tempted to). I was once asked to do a project that was way over my head, and involved learning some advanced Excel skills. I was tempted to say, “I’ve never done this, so you should probably ask someone else,” but I couldn’t bring myself to. What happened next? A lot of free online tutorials, a ton of trial and error, and a lot of hours spent on the project. The outcome? I took my skill level from intermediate to advanced in an extremely important program and was the only one on the team capable of building advanced reports. I was their go-to for that for years to follow.

Reason 4

What you’re being asked to do is unethical.
 If you ever feel that what you’re being asked to do is unethical, this is the most important time for you to absolutely say no. Listen to your gut! If you don’t feel like you can push back in the moment, go to your HR team and say ”I’ve been asked to do this, and I am not sure if it is in line with company policy.’ They will help you. If the situation comes to light, it’s not a fair defense to say, ”Well, they asked me to do it so I did it!’ You will be held personally responsible for your own actions and judgements in all situations that violate company policy.

So remember, there is nothing wrong with pushing back when the reasons are valid or you’re in over your head. It will be important to pick your battles, though, and not let “no” become a crutch. When it doubt, explain your thought process in a way that is thoughtful, positive and constructive and it will serve you well!

Jaime Petkanics

Jaime Petkanics is the writer behind www.prepary.com, an online resource which provides advice on all aspects of the job search. A former recruiter, Jaime answers questions ranging from how to write a great resume, to how to answer interview questions, and everything in between.